Elster's World

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Goodbye To A Kibbitzer

Manny, when they announced in shul this morning that you had passed away, everyone was sad, including me. I barely knew you, probably said no more that 20 words to you these last few years we davened together, but I watched you grow old before my very eyes.

When I first started davening in the minyan, everyone knew you. You came in, turned off the lights to a chorus of "Manny's here", walked to your seat giving everyone you passed a wise ass remark.

"Good morning Manny." - "Who says it's a good morning?" you would have replied, a twinkle in your eye. Or maybe you would have given a more caustic reply. But you were always just trying to be the funny guy - still the class clown at 70 plus. I remember the time during the Rabbi's Shabbos Hagodol drasha when he made a joke asking everyone if he should stop talking and in a room full of maybe 500 people, you were the jokester who raised his hand.

All of a sudden, though, you were way older than your years. I think you were in your seventies, but all of a sudden you looked 90.

I saw your spiral down with my own eyes. As an impartial observer. Your walk to your seat became a cane aided shuffle. You seemed confused sometimes. Your son had to start coming to shul every day to make sure you were alright. You couldn't put your tallis and teffilin on by yourself.

But still, there you were giving the Rabbi a hard time, wise-ing off to everyone who approached you. Still always dapper in a crisp shirt and pressed pants.

On Thanksgiving you had a heart attack. You never returned to shul. Your son came every morning after staying with you all night at the hospital - I listened as he gave all your concerned friends (and fans) a daily report. "Dad's not doing well, he's very sick." My impression was you weren't going to come back - no more "same to you" comments to the crowd of morning kibitzers.

And so when they announced in shul this morning that you had passed away, everyone was sad. I saw a few men tear up. I was sad too, though I hardly knew you. Still, you were a daily staple in my life and now you are gone. And for some reason it has effected me more strongly than it perhaps should have.

So this is my goodbye to you Manny - my salute to a bona fide shul kibbitzer. I will miss you and your personality when I daven every morning.

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